A sandwich cut in half

The Art of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich


A surefire signal that I’m out of town is the big square burn mark in my best stainless skillet. That’s the tale tell sign my husband has attempted to prepare the one and only item on his repertoire of home cooked meals: A grilled cheese sandwich.

The man doesn’t know how to cook.

His grilled cheese sandwiches are burned on the outside, solid on the inside. Poor guy. When it comes to this basic all-American favorite, Harold does just about everything wrong. He starts with a blazing hot skillet, uses cold butter and unevenly sliced cheese with the thickest parts of the cheese piled up in the middle of the sandwich. This man really needs his wife.

A sandwich cut in half

There’s an art to preparing a perfect grilled cheese sandwich that is crispy, golden brown on the outside, soft on the inside with cheese that is evenly melted. 

EQUIPMENT: The best tool for this job is a well-seasoned cast iron skillet because of the way it heats evenly to create a lacy-crisp exterior on the sandwich.

INGREDIENTS: For one sandwich: Two slices good white bread, 1 to 2 ounces Cheddar, Monterey Jack or American cheese and about 1 tablespoon butter.

TECHNIQUE: Preheat the skillet over Medium heat for about five minutes. While it is heating grate the cheese and sprinkle evenly between the two slices of bread. Grating the cheese insures that it will melt evenly. Put the slices together and press gently to set. Melt the butter and brush generously on one side of the bread, making sure no spot is left unbuttered. Gently place the sandwich in the heated skillet, buttered side down. Turn heat to Low. The longer you can leave it without turning, the better the result. This allows the butter to brown slowly and evenly. In the meantime butter the top with melted butter. Once crisp and deep golden brown, brush melted butter on the top side, gently turn and repeat (5 to 8 minutes per side). Remove, cut as desired with a sharp serrated knife and serve.


Grilled Cheese with Bacon. Fry 3 slices bacon until cooked but not crisp. Pat on paper towel to remove excess fat, add on top of the cheese, and grill as directed.

Grilled Cheese with Ham. Put 2 thin slices of ham between the cheese and grill as directed.

Onion-Cheese Sandwich. Follow the recipe for Grilled Cheese Sandwich, but lightly coat the inside of one slice of bread with Dijon mustard. Sauté 3 to 4 slices onion in butter and put on top of the cheese. Cover with the remaining slice of bread and grill.

Tomato-Cheese Sandwich. Follow the recipe for Grilled Cheese Sandwich, but add two thin slices tomato to the sandwich before grilling.

Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich. Two slices European-style country bread, 1 ounce Mozzarella cheese, sliced or grated; tomato slices or several strips of roasted red peppers and olive oil. Following the basic directions for the Grilled Cheese Sandwich above, sandwich the tomato slices (or pepper strips) between the cheese. Brush the bread with olive oil in place of the butter.

Greek Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Crusty bread (like sheepherder), 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled; sliced tomato, basil or oregano leaves, ground black pepper, olive oil. Follow instructions for Mozzarella sandwich.

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12 replies
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  1. TerryAnne says:

    I thought I was the only woman whose husband could not cook! This gave me a great laugh. My husband can also only cook grilled cheese, always burnt on one side and flat as a pancake, and also popcorn, with burnt pieces on the bottom of the pan. I had to have my husband read this, and he also had a good laugh over it. Thanks, Mary!

  2. Janetlee says:

    When I was visiting my sister this past summer, she made the best cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. She used Italian bread and Muenster cheese. She and I have always buttered the outside of the bread to get the nice toasted look and I spread a very small amount of mayo on the bread when assembling them. They are to die for with the Muenster cheese!

  3. downtownemployee says:

    Making multiple grilled cheese is easy. See the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen – the fine folks who publish Cooks Illustrated Magazine — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmKNDdDB1cU

  4. Dr. Dick says:

    Well, I like all of those, but my favorite starts with sour dough bread that I butter and brown on one sides in a good iron skillet or on the griddle. (I like mine crunchy all the way through, so the browned side becomes the inside). Then cover what becomes the bottom half with a thin layer of whatever cheese happens to be available. My favorite is cojack. Then I sprinkle well cooked and drained breakfast sausage crumbles over the cheese and add a second layer of thinly sliced cheese.

    Once assembled, I melt butter in the iron skillet and put one side of the sandwich into the melting butter and brown that outside. Flip and repeat on the other side and I can eat my weight in them.

    It was our kids favorites when they were young.

  5. Judi says:

    My variation on the mozzarella sandwich: sprinkle some garlic powder on the butter and add pepperoni to the sandwich. Warm some pizza sauce to dip the grilled sandwich in. Yum!

  6. Linda Pries says:

    My favorite grilled cheese is to butter the bread lightly (NOT melted butter) and place on a cookie sheet or other flat oven-safe pan butter side down, top with your fillings and the other slice of buttered bread, butter side up. Place in the oven at about 400 degrees. I have never timed how long to cook. Once the butter on the top has melted and the edges are just starting to brown, I flip the sandwich, the bottom will be golden, in just a few more minutes it’s done. Very crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. Plus they are not thin and flat, the bread does not lose it’s dimensions.This is the way I learned how to make grilled cheese. We were a family of eight children, so grilled cheese, one at a time on the stove would have been ENDLESS. I only make them on the stove now if I am in a super hurry, to me they come out thin and flat instead of thick and hearty.

  7. MaryM says:

    Wisconsin grilled cheese: saute some thinly sliced appled in butter, then make Cheddar cheese grilled cheese as abbove, but put apple slices inside. Also good wirh Brie.

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